The 101st Tour de France takes place July 5-27. Click through to read our report of Stages 1-3.
Location: Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut
Duration: 152.5km/ 94.75mi
Terrain: A flat stage with several sections of cobblestones or “pave” (no category climbs)
Weather: 14C/ 57F – 15km/hr Winds
Why you should care: Take a moment to picture a road in the Shire. Perhaps you see a narrow winding path, with rough uneven cobblestones with inches-wide crevices between them? Now add rain, wind, and spectators standing alongside the edge of this road making it slightly narrower still. That was Stage 5 of the Tour de France. A virtual Paris-Roubaix Tour within a Tour.
Those who have done well in the past in the Paris-Roubaix Classic – or Hell of the North, as it’s often called – were expected to do well today; while they didn’t perform poorly, they didn’t win, either. Paris-Roubaix darling Fabian Cancellara (three-time winner of P-R) and Niki Terpstra (the most recent winner of P-R) were definitely among those favorited – although anyone who had previously ridden or even attempted to ride the Hell of the North was seen as having a definite advantage over riders who hadn’t.
The heavy rain took out several riders before the cobbles even began, including GC Contender Chris Froome, who crashed twice and is now out of the Tour altogether.
The route for the following year’s Tour de France is put out by race officials quite early on, as part of the training for a major Classic such as this is to actually practice on the designated routes themselves. However, it appears that many riders underestimated the importance of testing this route, including GC men Vincenzo Nibali (Yellow Jersey) and Alberto Contador. Lucky for him, Nibali seems to be at the top of his form. He placed third on today’s stage ahead of Cancellara who came in 5th. Contador was not so lucky. When Nibali decided to attack in sector 8 of the cobbled terrain, Contador did not risk following. Though he did finish the stage, miraculously avoiding multiple crashes throughout the day, he ended up losing 2 minutes and 55 seconds by stage end, slipping from 5th place to 19th place overall.
In the end, Dutch rider Lars Boom (Team Belkin) took the stage.
Tomorrow’s stage is another flat one – no cobblestones and only very slight climbs – but it is any man’s stage. While typically favoring the sprinters, after a day like today, tomorrow’s stage may be seen as an opportunity to recover before the mountains this weekend. On the other hand, there will some desperate men who have lost a lot of time today, and will be anxious to close the gap in the overall standings.
Who do you think will win the next stage? Sound off in the comments board below.
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